Bill Laimbeer has usually found ways for his team to bounce back after they’ve been routed in playoff games.
His squads have gone 9-1 in games following a double-digit defeat. Las Vegas hopes for the same success Sunday in Game 2 after losing by 13 points to the Seattle Storm in the WNBA Finals opener in Bradenton, Florida
“You make a couple adjustments, but you can’t make a lot of adjustments,” Laimbeer said. “You impose on them it’s a five-game series, even if you lose one game so what? One or 21, it doesn’t matter, it’s still an ‘L’ You have to come back the next day and be more determined. You have to create a mindset of they got one now we have to get one.”
Laimbeer credits that mentality to his playing days when he helped the Detroit Pistons win NBA titles.
His players feed off it.
“That’s the biggest thing he does. He’s calm, cool and collected as surprising as that may seem,” league MVP A’ja Wilson said. “He trusts us and knows what we’re capable of.”
The Aces feel that they have fixable problems. They missed a lot of shots they normally make and Laimbeer, who has won three WNBA titles while coaching Detroit, felt his team got frustrated when the ball wouldn’t go in.
Las Vegas shot 17-for-56 (30%) from inside the arc and surprisingly made 10 of 21 3’s.
“We couldn’t score and our frustration of not scoring carried over to our defense and that was our undoing,” he said. “We can’t get frustrated. We have to keep playing our solid defense. Clawed our way back into the game, but then ran out of gas.”
It was also the first finals for many of the Aces players, including Wilson and Jackie Young.
“The first one is definitely a big one, a little bit of nerves and jitters going into it,” Young said. “It’s like playing in a national championship for the first time.”
Las Vegas will need to not only hit shots, but find a way to slow Breanna Stewart and Jewell Loyd. Stewart had a career-high 37 points — one short of the WNBA Finals record. Loyd added 28.
“Stewie’s going to take what the defense gives her. The biggest thing is to make them contested shots,” Wilson said. “That’s going to be tough of course. if you give open looks to a great player you get what you got last night.”
Seattle will try and do more of what it did in Game 1. The Storm dominated the paint — an area that usually is the Aces’ strength.
“That’s where we got them,” Seattle coach Gary Kloppenburg said. “Got a lot of baskets going to the rim in the paint. I thought we wanted to concentrate on getting them off their spot in deep post-ups. Bring another body, being there on that drive. I think we did a pretty good job trying to limit their inside touches.”
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